Florida Criminal Mischief Charges, Laws, Penalties and Defenses
Criminal mischief is a legal term that generally applies in cases involving vandalism, which constitutes the malicious destruction of property that belongs to another individual.
At Musca Law, our Florida Criminal Mischief Defense Attorneys are aware that many individuals do not associate criminal mischief with serious consequences. In addition, the word “mischief” is often considered relatively harmless behavior. Notwithstanding, the severity of the legal repercussions for the crime of criminal mischief depend upon how much damage was inflicted on another person’s property. As such, criminal mischief can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, which could result in imprisonment, probation and other serious consequences. This is why it is vital for a person charged with criminal mischief to seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible.
How is Criminal Mischief Defined in Florida?
The offense of criminal mischief is defined under Florida Statutes Section 806.13, which provides that “a person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another, including, but not limited to, the placement of graffiti thereon or other acts of vandalism thereto.” Keep in mind that vandalism under the statute relates to graffiti, or the breakage, defacement, and other forms of destruction to a third party’s property.
Under Section 806.13, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The alleged offender caused damage to property.
- The damaged property belongs to another individual.
- The alleged offender committed the crime of criminal mischief because he or she had malicious and willful intent in furtherance thereof.
For behavior to constitute “willfulness,” it has to be established that the person carried out the crime of criminal mischief with both purpose and intention. For actions related to “malice,” this means that the crime must have been committed with intention, without legal excuse or justification, wrongfully, and with the understanding that said actions would cause the destruction of another individual’s property.
In this instance, the element of intention in criminal mischief cases constitutes “general intent,” which means that the prosecution must only be required to establish that the actions of the defendant were wrongful and willful. Specifically, they do not need to show that there was “specific intent,” which refers to having to prove that the defendant’s actions were pursued with the manifest purpose of causing damage to a third party’s property. In other words, the prosecution does not need to establish that the alleged offender specifically set out to cause damage to another person’s property. It is sufficient for the prosecutor just to show that the property was damaged due to an intentional action that was wrongful, and that was also pursued with knowledge that damage would result to another’s property.
Criminal mischief does not relate to actions directed toward an individual’s body; it relates specifically to property damage. For instance, there was a Florida appellate court case where the judges rules specifically that damage inflicted on a person’s phone did not constitute criminal mischief because the offender intended to act with malice towards a person, rather than his or her property.
Regarding damage, courts in Florida have ruled that criminal mischief cannot be established unless there is property damage. In other Florida appellate court case, the judges ruled that minors who pulled down a dilapidated fence in order to climb over was not enough for a criminal conviction because the owner of the fence testified that it already sustained significant damage.
Penalties for Criminal Mischief in Florida
The punishment for criminal mischief in Florida varies in accordance with the amount of destruction inflicted upon another’s property. The property’s value is not a specific element of the offense of criminal mischief, but it can result in an alleged offender to be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor.
According to Florida Statutes Section 806.13, the following are the penalties associated with criminal mischief in Florida:
- If the damage to the property has a value of $200 or less, it constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor, which carries with it a maximum punishment of 60 days in prison.
- If the damage to the property is over $200 but less than $1,000, this is a first-degree misdemeanor, which can land the offender in jail for up to one year.
- If the damage to the property was over $1,000, then it constitutes a third-degree felony, which can result in a maximum prison sentence of five years.
It is important for the alleged offender to note that in criminal mischief cases, the defense can dispute the value of the property damage or the cost of repairs to same, which can significantly sway the outcome of the case.
Defenses Available in Florida Criminal Mischief Cases
Once hired, our skilled Florida Criminal Mischief Defense Attorneys will help an alleged offender develop the strongest defense case possible. Some of the defenses that we employ are as follows:
- The alleged offender did not cause damage to the subject property.
- The alleged victim did not own the subject property or it was jointly owned by the alleged offender.
- The damage was an accident.
- The damage did not result in willful behavior, but rather during another altercation.
- The alleged victim caused the property damage.
- The damage caused by the alleged offender was legally justified.
- There are a variety of extenuating circumstances that excuse the alleged offender’s actions.
- The damage to property was necessary to physically protect the alleged offender.
- The actions of the alleged offender were not wrongful.
A Conviction for Criminal Mischief Could Negatively Affect Your Life. Contact Musca Law Now!
Facing a potential conviction for criminal mischief could negatively affect your life. Do not allow this to happen. By calling Musca Law today at 888-484-5057, you could speak with one of our dedicated and accomplished Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys to learn more about your legal rights and options, as well as to discuss the potential defenses that may apply to your case. Don’t wait – contact Musca Law now to obtain the stellar representation that you deserve.